Charter School Spending Big on Politics

Bill Raden - Charter SchoolYesterday the subscriber-only political almanac California Target Book reported that spending by all independent expenditure committees (IECs) on Sacramento legislative races in the general election had topped $41 million. That brought the year’s total of outside money for state Assembly and Senate seats, including primary races, to $70 million.

But the real surprise of this election was just how much of 2016’s independent expenditure spending can be attributed to a handful of committees tied to charter school groups. According to the California Secretary of State’s Cal-Access website, charter IECs pumped close to $24 million into about 35 Assembly and Senate races, along with school board races in Alameda and Sacramento counties in the north, to Riverside and San Diego counties in the south.

Under state law, an independent expenditure is any campaign spending that is “outside” the control the candidates whom it is benefiting or opposing. An IEC can funnel unlimited amounts of money from corporations, nonprofits, and wealthy donors, as long as it does not coordinate the spending activity with candidates, who are under strict, albeit voluntary campaign limits.

California’s “school choice” movement has always benefited from generous subsidies by a narrow spectrum of big-spending entrepreneurs, many of whom are billionaires. Their wealth has helped give the state the highest number of charter schools in the US, even as their election largess has left it with the nation’s most expensive school board elections.

Capital & Main’s analysis of the latest campaign-finance records for the five largest charter school IECs reveals that those same personal fortunes are at the center of the charters’ apparent attempt to buy some Sacramento political insurance against a growing resistance among both lawmakers and the public to the industry’s unbridled expansion in the state.

The amount spent by charter IECs represents about $40 for each of California’s 581,100 charter school students, and a 300 percent jump from 2014 charter election spending — about 570 percent over 2012.

—Bill Raden
Why California’s Deep-Pocketed Charter School Backers Went for Broke

Analyze the Election or Go to the Circus

Analyze the Great DepressionSorry for being away for a whole day. Not very professional of me. I was down visiting my sister. But at the same time, I was working a lot because work is crazy — not that there is really anything unusual about that. I do, however, have a lot on my mind when it comes to Frankly Curious. In particular, I want to write some things about politics. But I want to stay on the subject of practical politics and theory. I am not interested in political news. I don’t need to analyze why we elected a demagogue.

Every time I hear some bit of news about our new president, it makes me ill. I have very much the same feeling that I had when George W Bush won re-election in 2004. I just wanted the next year to come so that we could start the process and move along. Of course, in that case, it was just a matter of four years. I suspect that this nightmare is going to be eight years. I’m not sure that you all know the way I expect things to go. So let me run it past it.

The Bleak Future

I won’t blame anyone for thinking that I’m full of it. Flip on Dancing With the Stars. At least it is reasonably fair.

The first two years will probably be pretty bad. Trump will get a big tax break for the rich that will be bad for the economy. Poor people will have less money to spend. Even with the economy still struggling, we will probably see a recession over the next two years. But it, like all things, will end. And things will be doing fairly well by 2020. And he will be re-elected. Twenty years from now, he will have the same standing as Ronald Reagan now has in the Republican Party.

Those who think that this next four years will be so bad that everyone will understand and turn toward the Democratic Party are fooling themselves. The truth is that there isn’t any rock bottom — for the Republican Party or for the nation. There’s nothing to analyze because the truth is crystal clear. For people of my generation, things getting steadily worse has come to be normal. So people are not going to rise up and demand change.

Irrational Anger Leads to Demagogues

This film was released 40 years ago this month:

Not a damned thing has changed. Of course, listen to what Howard Beale is saying. He’s mad as hell, but he’s not even sure what he’s mad as hell about. Things just aren’t quite “right.” And the truth is that this is what has brought us the new president. The sense that something is wrong without having any concrete ideas about it is what makes demagogues possible.

What America Wants

There’s been a lot of reporting on the fact that this election was all about email servers and grabbing women by the crotch. But really: is that the fault of the media? Isn’t it the case that we, the American people, don’t want to analyze. Hillary Clinton put together all kinds of serious policy papers on how to address problems that we face. But no one was interested in that.

Even if Hillary Clinton had won the election, it wouldn’t have been because she was qualified. It would have been because people liked her. It would have been because people found her opponent abhorrent. We don’t elect presidents on the basis of policy. The rich get the policy that they want. And the poor know that regardless of the policy, they will get screwed. Everybody knows that things will continue on as they have been. So you might as well sit back and enjoy the circus.

Let’s Try to Think — To Analyze

I’m going to do my best to make people see that policy does make a difference. But I won’t blame anyone for thinking that I’m full of it. Flip on Dancing With the Stars. At least it is reasonably fair.


I will have something to say Leonard Cohen death later. The one good thing about it is that he died before the election results were in.